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The Magic Of Potting Sheds And Winter Gardening

The Magic Of Potting Sheds And Winter Gardening

I’ve always been fond of the ritual of gardening and find a little shack in the woods, filled with terracotta pots, dried herbs and specialised tools enchanting… I may even fancy myself a little herbal witch of sorts when entering that quiet space.  And of course, I suspect it may also have something to do with my love for Beatrix Potter.

Alas, for all my love of the garden and a string of good gardening genes, I’m pretty rotten at it, having neither the patience nor the perseverance to keep things alive.  

Still, one can dream.  And in that dream, I wear a wide brimmed sun hat, have a flourishing English Country garden and know the herbal cure to every ailment.

In the meantime, however, I spoke to the real deal - local landscaper, Nick Spargo - about creating and using potting sheds, as well as winter gardening tips.  He wears a real wide brimmed sun hat and has been spending hours in the garden since he was a kid.  So he’s pretty legit.

What makes potting shed magical, what you need to have one and what you need to know about winter gardening

About Potting Sheds

Turns out potting sheds are nothing more than what we South Africans call garden sheds…  small outside shelters where you keep your gardening gear.  But that doesn’t make them any less magical!

Q: What is the purpose of a potting shed?

A: I use my garden shed as storage for gardening tools, fertilisers, seeds and bulbs.  I also keep my chemical pesticides in there, but make sure you keep them apart from fertilisers and away from animals and children!

Potting sheds are very useful throughout the year, but for the most part I use mine for planting out bulbs in their different seasons; as well as planting and nurturing seedlings.

terra cotta pots, gardening tools and seedlings on a potting bench

Q: Will it protect new plants from the cold in winter?

A: I usually don’t keep my newly planted seedlings in the potting shed.  I plant them out within the shed and then place the seedling trays in a protected area in my vegetable garden where they get at least 4 – 6 hours of sunlight a day.  This ensures that the soil in the trays stays warm, which encourages seed germination. 

If there’s a lot of winter frost where you live, then keeping the seedlings in the garden shed is best.  Just remember to allow fresh air into the shed, as funguses and harmful bacteria breed in warm, moist conditions.

Q: How much time should I be spending in my potting shed?

A: I spend a good 2 – 3 hours a week there, but before you spend hours in the shed, air out the space by allowing some time with the windows and doors open. It’s not good to breathe in the fungus spores and bacteria that may be breeding in the moist environment.

About Winter Gardening Tips

As I’ve already mentioned, I’m rotten at gardening.  So I wouldn’t expect you to trust my winter gardening tips. You should, however, trust Nick and the guys from Garden Shop

Here’s what you should be doing in your winter garden:

  • Plant your winter bulbs and prepare to be surprised when they come up a few months later.  This includes agapanthus, hydrangeas and even rose trees. Get the dirt on how to do that here.
  • Organise your seeds into different planting seasons.
  • Plan out your garden or get a landscaper to help you.
  • Protect tender plants with frost guard.
  • Do hard landscaping such as paving (and building your potting shed).
  • Clean out your gutters and get a plumber to clear out sewerage pipes while trees are dormant.
  • Do outside home maintenance such as painting, damp proofing, pool repairs and irrigation.
organise your seeds and bulbs for winter gardening

What You’ll Need for Your Own Potting Shed

Now that you’ve seen how very charming and useful a potting shed can be, you may have a little sheltered corner or idle garden shed you want to convert.  Here are my and Nick’s lists for what every good potting shed needs:

My whimsical list:

  • Sunscreen
  • Sun hat
  • Pretty floral gloves (I love garden gloves and almost feel like I’m getting into character when I strap them on. They mean business!)
  • An apron with a pocket, made from outdoor fabric. (The final part of the costume and really handy to wipe your hands on.)
  • Garden scissors / Pruning shears / Secrateurs (I have a red one that’s been passed on from the green fingered generations before me. I keep in in my kitchen drawer and use it to pick lemons, herbs and the occasional vegetable while I’m cooking.)
  • A gorgeous spade and watering can from Garden Glory
  • Book on herbs and their uses
  • An outside basin.  (This is a little easier said than done, but I think it’s a really nice touch to a potting shed, as even an amateur like myself needs somewhere to rinse my vegetables before bringing them inside.)
Gardening gloves for potting sheds
A basin in a potting shed is essential

Nick’s more advanced list:

  • Calendar (This is handy to keep track of seeding and planting times and we love it!)
  • Permanent marker and labels for seedling names and dates
  • Shelving with hooks
  • A stool
  • Table with drawers
  • A light! “Most people forget to put a light in their potting sheds.  It always helps, especially when the sun dips early on those chilly winter afternoons. Just make sure you get a certified electrician to install it,” says Nick.
The whole shebang... and a garden gnome

The whole shebang... and a garden gnome

“Make it an enjoyable space! Having a plug point will allow you to listen to the radio while you work, or use power tools when you need to.”

To inspire you, I've created a Pinterest board with all my favourite potting shed images.

There you have it! If you need help making your garden shed into a magical, introspective potting shed, contact me. If you need help with any garden landscaping or related matters, definitely contact Nick!


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